Warning: Spoilers for Season 41 of Survivor ahead!

The Survivor 41 finale was, to put it mildly, bonkers. Contestant Ricard Foye called himself one of the greatest Survivor players ever, just prior to being voted out. In the later fire-making challenge, mere seconds gave the advantage to Deshawn Radden over Heather Aldret. As a result, the final three ended up being a mixed bag of Radden, Xander Hastings and Erika Casupanan. Hastings’ stacked resume and storyline suggested that he would be the season’s most likely winner, but things didn’t go quite as expected. Now Hastings is reckoning with why he thinks he was destined to lose the game.

A lot of viewers speculated that Xander Hastings’ biggest mistake on finale night might have been choosing Erika Casupanan to go to the end instead of Heather Aldret (or not throwing himself in the ringer, like former winner Chris Underwood). Casupanan did, in fact, take home the title of Sole Survivor, with seven out of the eight jury votes. But, in his post-finale interview with Entertainment Weekly, Hastings shared that with the fire-making decision, he was only going with the cards he was dealt at the time. What he sees as more of the reason behind his downfall was the Catch-22 of voting out major threat/ally, Ricard Foye. He said,

I was surprised at no votes. I wasn’t surprised at the loss. I knew I lost the moment I stepped into final four, and I had the necklace on, and I give Ricard a big smile. Ricard’s been the closest person out there. I’ve been telling him all the things I’ve been doing, letting him in on all the strategy that’s going on in my head. And Ricard knows me inside and out. He knows the game I’ve been playing…And when I saw him, I gave him a big smile because I’m like, ‘Oh, man, I miss you.’ And he just gives me the coldest glare. And I knew it was going to be an uphill battle from there on out. Because having one person as well-spoken as Ricard very against you, it’s going to be a tough thing. When I saw his face, I was like, ‘Oh, okay. So he’s going to be campaigning against me.’

Right after his vote-out and during the final tribal, Foye did seem to give his former “bromance” the cold shoulder. But, one would expect different from someone like him, who famously understood in his alliance with Shan Smith that they would have to take each other out someday. In his own exit interview with Entertainment Weekly, Foye claimed that he didn’t vote for Xander Hastings because he does see a “difference between having a friendship and just honoring gameplay.” And apparently, “Uncle Xander” just wasn’t “savvy” with his strategy.

Yet, Hastings indicated that another part of the problem was that his not-so-hidden immunity idol throughout the game was both a blessing and a curse. The threat of it kept him safe, but at the same time, all his alliances from Yase expected him to save them from elimination. And when he didn’t (as he notoriously didn’t for Evvie Jagoda or Foye), there was some lingering resentment that Hastings believed carried over into his complete lack of votes at the end. He shared,

I think the jury had been out on me for a long time. I played a game that was too showing the tender side of me, but then the brain in me is also willing to do anything to get to the end. And people just didn’t like that I blended that like, ‘Hey, I care about you, and I want to get to know you, and I want to learn what makes you tick and figure out what’s important to you in life. But I’m also going to do whatever’s best for me, because I’m out of here playing my game.’ Yeah, I think that the jury was just out on me. I don’t think that there’s a scenario in which I win.

Jury member Danny McCray confirmed Hastings’ suspicions about the jury after his own vote-out weeks prior. The former NFL player stated that the remaining contestants weren’t even worried about him making it to the end with his idol, because they didn’t perceive him to be sincere enough in his dealings to win.

It was certainly a gamble for Xander Hastings to draw outside the cookie-cutter hero versus villain archetypes as he did. No one wants to feel a knife in their back from someone who claimed to genuinely care about them. But really, Hastings could have turned things around at the final tribal council with his answers to the jury. Unfortunately for him, Erika Casupanan simply sounded more intentional and persuasive about her strategy.

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